Friday, July 24, 2009

Independent Film, The Other White Meat

As a film lover, this year's experiment wouldn't be complete for me without at some point giving a nod to the independent film industry. And not by deriding the major studios. I love a good blockbuster studio picture occasionally. Both worlds have their advantages. Major studios have capital. Loads of it. They can afford to bankroll film extravaganzas that an independent producer couldn't dream of tackling. Special effects-driven bonanzas with more eye candy than you can shake a 200 foot transforming car robot at.

But...because of the massive budgets involved in many major studio films they have to appeal to the widest audience possible in order to be profitable. So you get a lot of formulaic filmmaking. Dense plotting that reminds of you 15 other movies. Or films with gorgeous visuals and little plot meat. And remakes...I just heard a remake of "Footloose" is in the works. What? I can somewhat understand remaking older films to recontextualize them in a modern setting or special effects based movies to update the visuals. But Footloose? It's only 25 years old (which I just learned...obviously they're remaking it for its quinvicennial). Soon movie sequels released by the studios a year later will simply be remakes of the original film with a new cast.

This is where independent film steps in and shines. Independent pictures are produced for much lower budgets generally, often employing up and coming or unknown talent. They focus more on story and character development, and less on eye candy. And because the investment per film is so much lower, they can afford to appeal to more niche audiences. They can take risks. This creates a much more diverse crop of films. You could say that the independent film industry appeals to film lovers generally, while the major studios appeal to people who like the spectacle of movies. Independent producers are enamored with the art of filmmaking while the studios are enamored with the art of making money selling films.

They both have their place. I'm not necessarily favoring one over the other. Like most of you I'm eagerly awaiting the next big-budget special effects blowout. I'm just glad that independent films exist as an alternate voice. Films that scream at you are fine, but sometimes you just want your movies to have a conversation. Or not talk at all.

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